Teaching Credit Classes for Soldiers

As told by:

David L Winfrey, AFC

Financial Counselor

Soldier & Family Assistance Center, Fort Sam Houston

Every month, I teach a military financial education program called "Your View of Money." I start the class with the Money Habitudes cards as an icebreaker and a way to understand how the soldiers see and use money. The second half of the class time, we move on to a more knowledge-based portion and use The Good Credit Game to talk about issues related to credit reports, scores and cards. I normally have a good discussion with the Money Habitudes cards, as I ask “What is your definition of Security?”

As the class moves to The Good Credit Game’s "Would you make a loan?" activity, I have the soldiers in the class form teams of three so when it is time to say “yes or no” there will not be a tie. I have them name the person who’s asking for the loan, so that it’s a person. I make a name tag in front of the group with the name of the person asking for the loan. So one person may be “Joe” and the next “Terry.”

When I read the cards of the game, I use the name in a sentence for each item of information. I read each card like “Joe is 73 years old.” Or “Terry is a Native American.” And as we use each of the 15 pieces of information, then the picture of Joe and Terry becomes more real. Each group will still need to fill in the blanks about what they imagine their character is like. Some of this discussion reveals some very intense likes and dislikes.

I use $5,000 as the loan amount. I tell them to decide whether they'd make a loan to their friend, "Joe." Sometimes they all agree, but often it’s a 2-1 split decision. In either case, I have them explain which of the 15 "Build a Person" factors influenced their decision and why they decided to make the loan to their friend or not. Of course, this provides lots of good talking points about what credit is, what shapes trustworthiness, and lays the groundwork for talking about how friends differ in their decision to loan money versus a bank.

Then the teams switch people, so the team who just decided on "Terry" is now looking at "Joe." This gives the soldiers more exposure to different factors and traits between the two characters we created. Now what I want them to answer is: Would a banker would make that $5000 loan to the person they've created? I attempt to keep the banking “scoring” more objective.

Overall, the activity has worked out to be a wonderful mix of answers and it brings to light some built-in prejudices. Interestingly, when the age of the person they've created has the "73 years old" card, the soldiers are very unlikely to agree to make the loan. When we use The Good Credit Game, it results in a really good, productive discussion within small groups and in the larger class.

In addition to my regular class for soldiers, I have also used the traditional board game part of The Good Credit Game for a spouse luncheon to introduce facts and myths about credit in a new, fun way. I don’t make anyone land by “exact” count on the last space, it’s more important to have fun.